There’s an old saying in golf: “Different horses for different courses.” Some players just think and play better on certain courses.  This mental game principle fits Steve Stricker to a tee. Defending his crown, Stricker raced to a strong second-place finish at the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.  Stricker stated, “This is a special place to start the year.” Clearly, his enjoyment for the Plantation Course at Kapalua has propelled his play to great heights. Even with a pain racing down his left leg due to a pinched nerve, Steve proceeded to shoot a 69 on Sunday, and impressively, hit every green in regulation. But Steve Stricker is not unique in having a playing affair with a certain course.  Ben Hogan played so well at the Riviera Country Club that it has been dubbed “Hogan’s Alley.”  Pebble Beach holds the same magic for Mark O’Meara, who won the U.S. Amateur and five PGA Tour events there. Many factors influence why a certain course provides great play for a particular player. One is that the layout of the holes just fits a player’s eye.  If most of the holes go left to right, and your bread-and-butter shot pattern is a fade (for a righty), then this would make you feel very comfortable over every tee shot. Another factor is that some courses get the juices flowing more than others. I heard “Bones” (Phil Mickelson’s long time caddy) say how much his player loves Augusta National and gets amped up to play there. Perhaps that is a big reason why Phil has worn the “Green Jacket” three times (once at a fast food drive-thru with his family, but that is a different story). On the flip side, consider all-time great Lee Trevino, who’s won every major except the Masters. Trevino has stated that Augusta National and he were not a good fit. If he felt the love as Phil does for that “old nursery,” then he may have won there (and at least finished higher than a T10). What about your students? Do they talk themselves out of playing well on certain golf courses? Do they talk themselves into playing poorly on certain holes? It is really that simple. Self-talk has immense influence over the outcome of our efforts. You must convince you students to like every course, and every difficult hole. Remind them to enjoy the course with its wonderful layout and great greens. In that case, they will enjoy the course even more because they played so well. When they make every course their favorite, they will find their scores improve in return. Bio: Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a tenured professor of sports and has been the official sports psychologist for the United States Golf Teachers Federation for the past 15 years. Dr. Gregg has been the mental coach for many golf teams including the University of Florida 1993 NCAA Men’s Championship team. He also enjoys helping young golfers to “think better scores.” Golf Digest ranked him as one of the best golf psychologists. Dr. Gregg is the author of “Mental rules for Golf” and has appeared many times on Golf Channel.  You can see more about him at www.drgreggsteinberg.com and if you have any questions about the mental game, please e-mail him at mentalrules24@msn.com.
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